Broome Bird Observatory

This page is a chapter in the book Western Australia.

[top]Description

Known to many as one of the best birding locations in Australia, Broome is a paradise for twitchers. Every year, you can be sure something will turn up, from Eurasian Hoopoe, to Blue and White Flycatcher, to Semipalmated Plover and Arctic Warbler. For the people that go to Broome and don't manage to find any vagrants, the Broome Bird Observatory, situated on the picturesque shores of Roebuck Bay, is a great consolation prize.

[top]Getting there

Heading north from Broome, towards Derby (about 9km after the airport), you reach a dirt road turning right off the highway (just before the turnoff to Cape Leveque). Follow this road south, then east (about 15km) until you reach to BBO, which is well signposted. Note that the road is impassable in the wet seasons, and hire car companies do not let you take non-4-wheel-drive cars on the road.

[top]When to go

Depending on what you are targeting, there are many times to visit Broome. Late April is when all the shorebirds are coloured up and heading off to their breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere, but late September is when all the migrants (waders and others) return for the summer, but it is not yet too hot to look for them. Winter, while a pleasant temperature, has relatively low bird numbers, and summer has great birds (as well as being peak vagrant time), but is extremely hot, and normally very wet.

[top]Amenities

The observatory itself has space for camping, and also small rooms to stay in (with air conditioning!) Cooking facilities are in the shadehouse (a cool area with a view of the bird bathes) and toilets are shared by everyone.[/COLOR]

[top]Key species

Where does one start?

Firstly, the waders. Roebuck Bay is THE spot to go in Australia to find waders. Every regular visiting species can be found in the bay (or on the plains behind the bay). The main targets for twitchers are the uncommon Common Redshank (estimated at about 20 in the whole bay at any one time), Asian Dowitcher (slightly more common, but still rare) and Broad-billed Sandpiper (the easiest to find of the three specialties), Broome being almost the only place where these species occur annually in Australia. On the plains, Little Curlew are easy to find if you're there at the right time (normally early October is best), Australian Pratincole are common, and Oriental Pratincole can be in plague proportions when they arrive in late November. Oriental Plover dot the plains, and Long-toed Stint are relatively easy to find on the margins of the big lakes. I'm not going through the rest of the wader list, but basically if there is a wader in your field guide that is not a vagrant, you will probably find it somewhere around the BBO with relative ease (provided you're there at the right time and it's not a Redshank!).

But Broome not only contains waders, but also a huge range of other birds. While watching waders, remember to look up for raptors, which often flush the roosting birds. 22 of our 24 raptors have been recorded around Broome (minus Red Goshawk and Pacific Baza), though it would be your lucky day to find a Grey Falcon or Letter-winged Kite. Other birds to watch out for while wader watching are Lesser Frigatebirds and Brown Boobies. The mangroves also hold many species that are quite difficult to find in other parts of Australia. White-breasted Whistlers are a major attraction, but a bit of pishing can easily get you Red-headed Honeyeaters, Dusky Gerygone, Mangrove Golden Whistler, Mangrove Grey Fantail, Broad-billed Flycatcher and Yellow White-eye. Birding in the Broome mangroves is actually ranked at #1 on my best birding experiences, as it is just so fun, and the rewards are great!

Moving inland, the plains also hold some specialist species. Along with the rest of the waders not normally found on the shoreline (Oriental Plover, Long-toed Stint, Wood Sandpiper, both Pratincoles, Little Curlew), many interesting species can be found here, especially in good seasons. The best place in Australia to find the elusive Yellow Chat is a short drive from the observatory, and Flock Bonzewings number in their hundreds (if not thousands) in a good year. Black-tailed Treecreepers, honeyeaters, pipits and larks, quail, ducks, raptors, parrots, bustards, and much, much more can all be found. Remember that you can only access the station on a BBO tour. I reccommend the lakes tour - a full day trip covering all habitats - and the Yellow Chat Twitch (about 3 hours in the afternoon), though you can also book for private tours.

And then, of course, you have the vagrants. Oh, so many vagrants. Always be on the lookout when you're in Broome, you never know what you might find!

[top]Notes

Website at http://www.broomebirdobservatory.com/

Remember that the wardens are always very helpful, and a bird count is held in the shadehouse every night, covering everywhere from Broome (including STW, Cable Beach, etc) to the edge of Roebuck Plains Station and the Bay. So ,if you're after a specific bird, it's best to ask!

[top]Maps & GPS



[top]Images

Previous: Lake Seppings Nature Reserve, Albany Western Australia Next: Eyre Bird Observatory

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